Paul Davey

RM & EF Davey,

Sponsored by: Arla

Plateauing yields and a need to cut overhead costs after being caught up in the mis-selling of interest rate swaps scandal prompted Paul Davey to look at alternative farming systems. The result was a move towards direct drilling five years ago, leading to further innovation including lengthening rotations and block cropping

The 440-hectare business specialises in seed production of ryegrass for Germinal, beans and cereals for Limagrain, RAGT, Openfield and others, as well as producing vining peas for Birds Eye. It also has a lambing flock.

The rotation includes winter wheat, oilseed rape, linseed, legume breaks, spring cereals and two-year ryegrass leys. This has allowed Paul to reduce overheads while keeping establishment, harvest and storage logistics highly mobile. The machinery and labour are managed within a separate farm contracting company, which enables him to set a fixed charge back to the partnership.

A lower cost establishment system has made it easier to make management decisions about annual crop spend, when to ease it and when to spend a little more. As the system has progressed, Paul is finding crops are healthier for longer and less fungicide is used, with almost no insecticide.

Changes to the farming system, such as planting catch and cover crops, using manures and incorporating livestock in the rotation, have led to better nutrient recycling and improved water infiltration and retention rates in soils. This has meant, for example, the wet autumns of 2019 and 2020 were easier to manage.

Straw has been swapped for farmyard manure for the last few years and sheep being part of this predominantly arable farm has been a key part of the strategy to be more resilient, sustainable and regenerative. Zero fungicide trials in wheat populations are being trialled this year, as well as natural oils for bruchid control in beans.